Sleep apnea, one of the most frequent sleep breathing disorders, is a very common pathologic condition. Up to 50% of the adult male population and around 20% of the adult female population are estimated to suffer. The pathology is also present in childhood and affects about 5% of children aged 0-14 years.
The most common symptoms are night snoring, interspersed with more or less evident respiratory pauses, with frequent awakenings, restless sleep, nicturia (need to urinate at night). In the morning there remains a feeling of unrefreshing sleep, headache, excessive daytime sleepiness, up to the risk of falling asleep with possibly car and work casualties. In a high percentage of cases the condition predisposes to arterial hypertension, with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, and to diabetes.
In children (in addition to snoring, restless sleep and nocturnal enuresis), behavioral disturbances, attention deficit, poor school performance, headache, state deficit, otitis and cardio-vascular disorders are reported.
The most common predisposing conditions in adults are male genre, advanced age, smoking, obesity.
In children predisposing conditions are adeno-tonsillary hypertrophy, jaw bone malformations, obesity.
The therapy is mainly based on the use of the c-pap, a small compressor which, through a tube and a facial mask, supplies air under pressure during the whole night, to avoid the obstruction of the airways. In selected cases, it is alternatively possible to use "dental" appliances which, used at night, keep the jaw and tongue in an advanced position, in order to prevent obstruction of the airways.
In children, therapy can be both surgical (tonsillo-adenoidectomy) and orthodontic, using devices that, by aligning the teeth and arches, increase the space for the air flow.